The Hanged Man Artwork Description
“The gallows from which he is suspended forms a tan cross, while the figure—from the position of the legs—forms a fylfot cross. There is a halo about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted first that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves growing from it; secondly that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; thirdly that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. It is a card of profound significance, but all the significance is veiled. It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty; but we may exhaust all published interpretations and find only variety. I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.” 1
The Hanged Man Associations
- Alternate Names: Traitor, The Hanged One.
- Twelve: 12 Limbo, Sacrifice.
- Element: Water.
- Rune: Perth “Unclear, Hidden”.
- Crystal/Gem: Bloodstone.
- Kabbalah: Mem “Water”.
- Astrological: Neptune.
- Astronomical: Southern Cross.
The Hanged Man Basic Meaning
A period of intermission, placed in limbo, or in-between. A place of contemplation, insight, seeking guidance from within yourself. To obtain insight you must sacrifice what it is that keeps you moving—sacrifice to gain knowledge. Pushing away that which surrounds you (this can be seen as painful/obstructive to the self) so you can see more clearly.
The Hanged Man Controversies and Observations
Compare the meaning of this card to the story of Odin on Yggdrasil.
“This is the symbol which is supposed by some to represent Prudence. A male figure is suspended head downwards from a gibbet, to which he is attached by a rope about one of his ankles. His arms are bound behind him, and one leg is crossed over the other. According to another, and indeed the prevailing interpretation, he signifies sacrifice, but all current meanings attribute to this card are cartomancists’ intuitions, apart from any real value on the eighteenth century who circulated Tarots depict a semi-feminine youth in a jerkin, poised erect on one foot and loosely attached to a short stake driven into the ground.” 1
“Meaning: Wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy.
Reversed: Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.” 1
“Sudden reversal in though; surprising others with your actions; postponement of plans; letting go of people, place, or things that no longer serve you well; suspending issues.” 2
“Basic Tarot Symbols: A man hanging by one foot from a bar or tree. His free leg is always bent to form an inverted ‘4,’ his face is always peaceful, never suffering. Sometimes his hands are bound, sometimes they dangle. Sometimes coins fall out of his pockets or hands.
Basic Tarot Meaning: With Neptune (or Water) as its planet, the Hanged Man is perhaps the most fascinating card in the deck. At #12, it is the opposite of the World card, #21. With the World card you go infinitely out. With the Hanged Man, you go infinitely in.
Some readers believe the Hanged Man reflects the story of Odin who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. Hanging from the world tree, wounded by a spear, given no bread or mead, he dangled for nine days. On the last day, he saw on the ground runes that had fallen from the tree, understood their meaning, and, coming down, scooped them up for his own. All knowledge is to be found in these runes.
Other readers like to point out that in older decks the card was known as ‘The Traitor,’ referring to the fact that, historically, some countries hung traitors upsidedown by one foot.
And still other readers like to point out that the Hanged Man is like that moment when a babe in the womb turns upside-down so that it may be born, hanging, as it were, from it’s umbilical cord.
The Hanged Man is similar to all of these: like Odin, he allows himself to be hung so that he can gain wisdom for the world. Like traitors of old, be sacrifices himself for a cause, and sees things from an ‘inverted’ perspective. What is right to him is wrong to others and vice versa. And like the babe in the womb, the Hanged Man hangs suspended between one world (the womb) and the next (outside the womb).
What is important to remember is that this is a card about suspension, not life or death. The querent might well feel that one thing has ended, yet the next has not begun, and they are stuck in a kind of waiting room. Things will continue on in a moment, but for now, they float, timeless.
Yet this isn’t just a position of rest as the querent is inverted. Which means so is his/her view of the world is very different from the rest of us who walk upright. Thus, this waiting becomes a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. This new way of seeing things often leads to insights and enlightenment. Answers that eluded the querent become clear, solutions to problems are found. All of which the Hanged Man hoped to buy with his sacrifice.
Thirteen’s Observations: The first step into the esoteric, we might well say, is to shed the mundane world and be ‘reborn.’ To do this, we must surrender all we thought we knew, all resistance to new ways of thinking. We must make ourselves venerable to visions and psychic energies. We must, if you like, return to ‘the womb,’ a spiritual womb this time around. The one belonging to the High Priestess who, remember, sits at that still place between opposites.
This the Hanged Man does when he willingly allows himself to be suspended and dangle inverted from one leg. Neptune is spirituality, dreams and psychic abilities, and the Hanged Man has allowed himself to be lowered into those deep waters, floating there, absorbing all they offer him. He is waiting for that moment when he will be born into a new consciousness.
Thus, this card signifies a time when the querent is feeling sensitive, vulnerable, introverted, suspended even as they also experience insight so deep that for a moment, nothing but that insight exists. This is the card of vision quests but also, very simply, of those times when you put aside your prejudices and open yourself up to different ideas. Or just try something new and strange. Meaning that the Hanged Man could be as simple as going out with a type of person you never imagined dating, or trying some odd cuisine. It is a time when you change your perspective.
Such moments don’t last, and they usually require some kind of sacrifice. Sacrifice of a belief or a wish, dream, hope, money, time or even selfhood. The sacrifice may be made to get into the inverted position, or it may be made to get out of the inverted position. Either way, in order to gain, you must give. Great or small, spiritual or mundane what you gain from making that sacrifice and allowing yourself to see things differently is insights and solutions. These can help you and everyone else you care about. Which is often why one goes through it all in the first place.
One thing is certain, once you have been the Hanged Man you never see things quite as you did before.” 3
Axank’s Dream Recollection
January 3-4, 2012